Our usual New Year's trip to the Los Angeles area had a twist this year; Kellen and his fiancé Noël went along with us. Kellen had an opportunity to meet her family about a year ago, so turnabout is fair play.
The trip down was almost uneventful. Security at Seattle-Tacoma Airport was pretty quick; Melody and I were in a faster lane to get our IDs checked, but Kellen and Noël were in a faster lane for screening. We hung out a bit, got some lunch, then went on the subway to get to our gate.
Kellen and Noël had boarded ahead of us, and when Melody and I were scanning our boarding passes, we were told to go to the agent to get our seats reassigned. It was rather surprising to hear that we weren't checked in, even though we had done so the day before and got no notifications. We waited behind a couple standby passengers, and when we got to the agent, she immediately told the standbys that she needed their seats back for us. One of them was somewhat unhappy, so we quickly got the new seat assignments (which were fortunately still together) and settled into our seats. As it ends up, Kellen and Noël were also reassigned, but unfortunately were a couple rows apart. It sounds like the plane was changed to one that was slightly smaller since the previous plane wouldn't have been full.
The flight itself was a bit faster than scheduled, so we landed, called my parents, and they picked us up at the curb. Quick introductions done, we hopped in the car back to Downey. After dropping off my dad, we did some grocery shopping, picked up dinner, then went back to eat, talk, take a walk around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights, and eventually retire for the day.
We got an early start the next morning (working around all six of us taking turns in the one shower) and went to my cousin's house to participate in mochitsuki. Noël had participated in one before when she lived in Japan, so she had experience, but meeting all the family members (including many who were there for the first time in many years) must have added a degree of difficulty.
It looked like we did 140 or 150 pounds of rice, which was more than recent years. There was a good crowd of people working on making mochi, which was good since the rice came quite quickly; many hands needed to keep up. Towards the end we tried making a batch of green tea mochi, essentially adding a bunch of tea leaves and a bit of sugar to the rice while grinding. It was certainly colorful!
After finishing up the mochi, we all relaxed and started in on lunch, a huge feast with many different dishes. After filling up, my dad went to deliver mochi in Gardena while we went towards Long Beach. Our first stop was to the cemetery to visit my mom's parents and other relatives interred there. After that, we worked our way to Lyon Art Supply where Noël got to see the store (and Kellen too, since the last time he was there was before they moved across the street).
Once we got back to Downey, Melody and I took a quick walk, but getting back to the house, she realized she wasn't feeling great. She went to sleep while the rest of us worked on leftovers for dinner, during which my dad entertained us with all sorts of stories, from his college years, working at Douglas Oil (part of Conoco), and his brush with the art world. Afterward, we all wanted to rest up, since we knew the next several days would be filled with visiting museums and exploring the area.